BITBURGER OPEN 2011 – Surprise finalists go for gold

The 2011 Bitburger Open Grand Prix Gold heads into its final day with plenty of familiar faces but also a few very new faces and flags.  In particular, unseeded Lennartsson/Wengberg […]

The 2011 Gold heads into its final day with plenty of familiar faces but also a few very new faces and flags.  In particular, unseeded Lennartsson/Wengberg produced the rare site of a Swedish finalist at the Gold level when they knocked off 2nd-seeded Danes Damkjaer Kruse/Roepke.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Sven Heise (live from Saarbrücken)

Sweden’s Emelie Lennartsson / Emma Wengberg (pictured) have certainly earned their way into the final in Saarbrücken.  They fought hard for more than an hour in the quarter-finals to see off England’s Wallwork/White before taking even longer to dispose of the Danes on their 3rd match point opportunity.  However, their hopes for a title depend on them taking down the mighty top seeds Fujii/Kakiiwa of Japan, who are after their second Grand Prix Gold title of the year back on German soil, where they won their first.

The Swedish victory might be a novelty, but an even higher profile upset came in the men’s doubles, again at Denmark’s expense.  Liu Xiaolong and Qiu Zihan (pictured) have been threatening badminton’s best of late, losing narrowly to Jung/Lee and upsetting the likes of Taiwan’s Fang/Lee and Indonesia’s Ahsan/Septano.

However, their finals ticket in Saarbrücken came from their biggest upset of the year, as they went toe-to-toe with the might Boe/Mogensen and eliminated the top seeds in three close games 22-20, 12-21, 21-17.

The Chinese youngsters now take on Bodin Issara / Maneepong Jongjit.  The high-flying Thais have not been in a final since the Kaohsiung International last fall but they’ve put together a handful of upsets and near upsets in just 9 tournaments this year, including a nail-biting loss to Liu/Qiu at the Japan Open.  This week they have romped over three seeded pairs to reach the final, where they hope to go one better against the Chinese sixth seeds.

If Yao Jie (pictured below)looked impressive in her home event this fall, her Bitburger Open campaign has been even more amazing, as she has fired past Danish ace Tine Baun, as well as Japanese youngster Sayaka Sato, en route to the final.  There she faces China’s Li Xuerui, who is keen on this title opportunity, finally competing in the absence of her formidable compatriots as all the Wangs left Europe a week earlier.

In contrast to all the surprises, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (pictured below) is looking right at home, back in the Bitburger final for a second straight year.  He’s been put through his paces, with hour-long matches on three consecutive days, but even after his 17-21, 21-17, 21-16 win over Marc Zwiebler – effectively the top seed – Vittinghus’s biggest test may still be ahead as he faces China’s Wang Zhengming.  Wang already rained on HK’s parade once this year, eliminating him from the Korea Open qualifiers after the Dane had just taken care of home favourite Lee Hyun Il.

He [Zwiebler] made it extremely hard for me today as he played with great variation and patience,” Vittinghus told his Facebook fans.  “I also had trouble responding to his gameplan, where he seemed to focus a lot on my forehand side at the back of the court. But I kept working hard and tried to make him use as much energy as possible, just as I had planned before the match.

Sticking to this plan and being mentally strong was the key for me to get back into the match. I’m so proud of myself and really pleased about my performance today. It really was a very tough match for me mentally, but I pulled it through.

Of his prospects for the final, Vittinghus said, “Needless to say it’s another really hard challenge for me, but I’m really looking forward to playing him again and hopefully I’ll get my revenge after I lost to him in Korea earlier this year.

I’ll do everything I can to get the win, but more importantly I will enjoy being on court for another final here in Saarbrücken.

Another chance for Denmark comes in the mixed doubles, where 2009 World Champions Laybourn/Rytter Juhl are back in the hunt for a title, playing in their first final since they won their home Super Series title last fall.  Their opponents will be former Asian Champions Chan/Goh of Malaysia.  Both pairs took out the last remaining Chinese challenges in the discipline, limiting the superpower’s hopes to three gold on Sunday.

Finals line-up
MD: Liu Xiaolong / Qiu Zihan (CHN) [6] vs. Bodin Issara / Maneepong Jongjit (THA)
WD: Mizuki Fujii / Reika Kakiiwa (JPN) [1] vs. Emelie Lennartsson / Emma Wengberg (SWE)
WS: Li Xuerui (CHN) [4] vs. Yao Jie (NED) [7]
XD: Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) [8] vs. Thomas Laybourn / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (DEN) [3]
MS: Wang Zhengming (CHN) [3] vs. Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (DEN) [4]
Click here for complete semi-final results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @